NSW Police History Index

Policing in New South Wales has expanded and developed according to the needs, attitudes and knowledge of the day.

From its modest beginnings, the NSW Police Force has developed into a large, modern and diverse organisation rich in heritage and tradition; one that has now chosen to move forward by reviving some of the community based principles of its past.

In the first year of the new colony of New South Wales (1788) Royal Marines performed the policing function. They proved unwilling and negligent in this duty. Thus, in August 1789, the Governor appointed a Night Watch consisting of 12 well-behaved convicts. As the colony expanded, so did the duties, organisation and supervision of these early police.

In 1810, Governor Macquarie re-organised the police, creating a basic system of districts and ranks. In following years, the colony established independent police units to meet particular law enforcement needs. Sections such as the Mounted Police (1825), Water Police (1830), Sydney Police (1833), Border Police (1839) and Native Police (1848), vigorously pursued their specific charters, but a lack of communication, cooperation and central supervision resulted in noticeable inefficiency.

Successive administrations attempted to improve policing structure and finally, in March 1862, the Police Regulation Act amalgamated all police into one cohesive body, the NSW Police Force. Adopting the basic principles of Unity of Action, Centralisation of Authority and Uniformity of System, the Inspector General of Police assumed the administrative powers previously held by the Magistracy. Police arms, communications and equipment were updated, the numbers of men increased, and the conditions of work improved.

An opportunity to explore the history of policing in NSW is available at the Justice and Police Museum, Phillip St. Circular Quay. Its fascinating displays, historic buildings and artefacts bring the justice history of NSW to life. Open to the public every Sunday; booked tours and interactive school programs available Mon – Fri. Inquiries (02) 9252 1144.

Chronology of early Policing in New South Wales.
(1788 to 1862) Listing of events through the early years of Sydney and New South Wales.

The New South Wales Police Force Chronology of the First Hundred Years.
(1862 to 1962) Listing events that have changed the NSW Police Force and it’s path in history.

Police Commissioners Of NSW
Complete listing of all New South Wales Police Commissioners from the first in 1851 to the present.

Police Training Centre Redfern
In 1904 the Government of the day purchased a four acre block of land in Bourke Street, Redfern, for the erection of a new Police Depot. In 1905 contracts and estimates were called for, to erect the new stable block. In 1906 further contracts were entered into for the erection of the major building. The building was completed in May, 1907, and the Police Department occupied the premises in June of that year.

Uniforms of the NSW Police
There have been very few major changes to our police uniforms since 1862. The changes that did occur were done with one eye on tradition and the other on practicality.

Communications
The NSW Police Force has always been reliant on contemporary means of communication and the expansion of the colonial telegraph during the 1860’s proved invaluable to the police.

Transport
Today the NSW Police Force utilises many modes of transport. Yet back in the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s the horse and bicycle were the only means of transportation.

Motor Vehicles Branch – 1912 – 1962
Until 1927 all Police vehicles were under the control of the Superintendent of Traffic, but in that year, as the fleet of Police motor vehicles had increased to 143, a new branch, the Motor Vehicles Branch, was formed on the 12th December, 1927.

Motor Traffic Branch – 1800’s
It may come as a suprise to many that Sydney from its earliest settlement days and long before the advent of the self-propelled motor vehicle, had serious traffic problems upon its narrow and winding streets.

Water Police
In 1789, a year after the then colony of New South Wales had been founded, Governor Phillip established a “Row Boat Guard” to “patrol the harbour and foreshores of Sydney Cove, to detect smuggling and to prevent the passing of letters between convicts and the crews of sailing ships lying at anchor.”

Women Officers
On 1 July 1915, the NSW Police Force appointed Maude Rhodes and Lillian Armfield, its first women officers.

Fingerprinting
The fingerprint branch established in 1903, as part of the Detective Branch, was instantaneously heralded as an effective tool of criminal detection. Later, when photographs were added to fingerprint information, this area became the cornerstone of criminal investigative work.

The Meaning of the Police Insignia
The insignia was designed and adopted in 1959. As the symbol of the Police Force the insignia can been seen on every police cap and hat. It consists of a crown, signifying Her Majesty’s Government, surmounting the segment containing the New South Wales Crest and the Eagle carrying Nemesis, representing Justice and Law.

Police Chaplaincy
Chaplains have been associated with the military for centuries and were often referred to in historical records of famous battles.

History of the Office of the Sheriff
The Office of the New South Wales Sheriff is the second oldest public position in English law. The only public offices older than the Sheriff are the positions of King and Queen.

The Office of Sheriff in Australia today
In 1824, New South Wales included the whole of the eastern half of Australia, as well as Van Dieman’s Land (now called Tasmania).

The Sheriff in Australia
The Office of the Sheriff was first established in Australia by the Charter of Justice in 1824. Prior to this, the duties of the Sheriff were performed by the Provost-Marshal of the Colony of New South Wales.

The Sheriffs of the Colony and State of New South Wales
List of the Sheriff’s of New South Wales and the years during which they held office.

The Old Darlinghurst Gaol
Darlinghurst Gaol then remained the main Sydney penitentiary up until 1914, when it’s unwilling inmates were transferred to the new “model prison” at Long Bay.

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